Books on Inequality

A hopelessly muddled piece by political scientist Andrew Hacker in the NYRB. A few things that seem to need to be pointed out:

  • That’s not what Say meant. And Say’s Law is not always true.
  • Stories of causality are important. I’m going to read Wilkinson and Pickett, so I’m not going to blame them yet, but just because something is correlated with something else doesn’t mean that it is causing it. The causality could go the other way. Or something else could be causing both. Or it could simply be spurious.
  • Hacker seems a little unclear on what the Gini coefficient is. You know, mathematically.
  • $350,000 a year makes you rich, not “comfortably off.” Sometimes it’s important for upper middle class professors to look at median income numbers. And then realize that half the population is living on less.
  • Millionaires increased there share of income by 631% between 1972 and 2010! That’s a much bigger problem than the top 5% increasing their share of income by 25% (which is still a problem).
  • Violent crime has been falling steadily since we took the lead out of our atmosphere. I don’t know if Gilligan uses a time trend, but Hacker doesn’t. That’s bad.

Hacker seems to not really have a firm grasp on the numbers or the economics. While I’m sure at least some of the authors he cites do, this review does them no service.


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